I LOVE growing Eggplants (or Aubergines depending on what side of the pond you are on). For one, they are a unique veg and not everyone grows them, so there’s the novelty factor. Second, they are super expensive everywhere (grocery stores and markets) and the varieties are super limited. Third, they are delicious and, once roasted, freeze beautifully. It’s the veg trifecta! If you’ve never grown them, I encourage you to give them a try this year!
Time to Maturity: These mostly clock in around the 70-80 day mark, meaning (for me at least) a super cold spring or an early fall can do in this crop . This is when a greenhouse or cold frame or even cloches come in handy. If you are warmer than me (Zone 4b), you should be fine. Colder? You might have to pull off some fancy footwork to get a harvest.
Diseases & Pests: Colorado Potato Beetles do like eggplants, so if you get them in your potatoes, be sure to check your eggplants over as well. Otherwise, if you give them the drainage (sharp) and good spacing (lots of elbow room) they should be relatively pest and disease free.
Key Words: Keep an eye out for descriptors regarding both seeds and skin thickness. Thick skinned varieties will more often than not require peeling, but they will keep well. Also, any words indicating sweetness or lack of bitterness are always good.
Use: Since I prefer my eggplant cooked, just think about how you want to cook them. Smaller, less seedy varieties are great for the grill and won’t require peeling. If you are looking for a year’s supply of eggplant for (one of my faves) Eggplant Parmesan, look for larger, beefier varieties.
- Tadifi. This is a mid-sized, delicious variety was a strong producer for me and always germinated well. I can’t find it for sale anywhere, save Etsy, but if you do see it, give it a shot.
What I’ve Grown in the Past:
- Casper: This is a common white variety that I cannot get to germinate however hard I try. It is possible I got a bad batch of seeds, but I’ve basically given up on this variety.
- Listada di Gandia: I tried this last year and the plants were good, but they didn’t produce any eggplants. At 90 days to maturity, I was really pushing the boat out, but I had hoped growing them in the greenhouse would help. Perhaps I will try them again.
What I Want to Try:
- Rosa Bianca: A pretty white and purple striped variety with a lobed shape. Mild and creamy are used to describe it, but northern areas can reduce yield. 70 days
- Rosita: Another mid-sized bright purple variety with sweet flesh and skin that isn’t bitter. 70-80 days
- Diamond: A smaller, narrower dark purple variety. These are borne on large plants with clusters of 4-6 fruit. It should be well suited to non-container gardening. 70 days
Growing Notes: In the past two years I’ve exclusively grown eggplant in large terracotta pots in the greenhouse. Two years ago it worked like a dream. This past year was far less successful. I’m still debating what I will do next year, but given the success of the peppers outside last year (they enjoy similar conditions) I may give that a shot. One thing is for certain though, there is no way they will hit the ground until mid-June!